Carrying the Load (320+ Rushes)
By Chris Smith
August 10th, 2012

Running backs that have carried the ball 320+ times in a season 98 times since the 1992 campaign. This has been accomplished by just 45 different running backs. In fact 56 of those 98 campaigns were the work of just 15 players (noted below) and just 22 players reached this list and never did it a second time. Here are the players that have managed the feat multiple times.

Six Times (3 players)

  • Curtis Martin
  • Eddie George
  • Edgerrin James
  • Five Times (2 players)

  • Emmitt Smith
  • LaDainian Tomlinson
  • Four Times (1 player)

  • Clinton Portis
  • Three Times (8 players)

  • Barry Sanders
  • Jerome Bettis
  • Ricky Watters
  • Rudi Johnson
  • Shaun Alexander
  • Steven Jackson
  • Terrell Davis
  • Tiki Barber
  • Two Times (10 players)

  • Corey Dillon
  • Deuce McAllister
  • Larry Johnson
  • Michael Turner
  • Priest Holmes
  • Ricky Williams
  • Stephen Davis
  • Terry Allen
  • Travis Henry
  • Willie Parker
  • One Time (22 players)

  • Adrian Peterson
  • Ahman Green
  • Arian Foster
  • Barry Foster
  • Cedric Benson
  • Chris Johnson
  • Chris Warren
  • Dorsey Levens
  • Duce Staley
  • Errict Rhett
  • Fred Taylor
  • Jamal Anderson
  • Jamal Lewis
  • James Stewart
  • Marshall Faulk
  • Maurice Jones-Drew
  • Natrone Means
  • Rashard Mendenhall
  • Rodney Hampton
  • Thomas Jones
  • Thurman Thomas
  • Willis McGahee
  • Some General Thoughts

    The 320-carry mark does not appear to be impossible to hit again and again if a player is durable and talented. However just half the players on our list were able to accomplish the feat. There are several current players on our list who have reached this goal once who are capable of reaching it again. Chris Johnson (Titans), Adrian Peterson (Vikings), Arian Foster (Texans), Rashard Mendenhall, Willis McGahee and Maurice Jones-Drew have all had 320+ carries once. Jones-Drew in fact managed it for the first time last year and he is certainly durable and talented enough to reach it again. I think a great bet to reach 320+ carries this season is Arian Foster who when healthy may be the best 20+ carry back in the game today. Chris Johnson may never finish with that many carries again and both Adrian Peterson and Rashard Mendenhall are coming off of injuries. Add in veteran Willis McGahee who is likely not young enough to rack up that many carries, and it is unlikely that more than two of the current players will become "multiple" players on this list.

    There are certainly current players I believe have an excellent shot at joining this list for the first time in the upcoming season. The most likely player to reach 320+ carries in my opinion is Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks. He finished with 285 carries in 15 games last year (304 carry pace). He also managed to carry the ball 280 times in just 13 games as a rookie (345 carry pace)… The worry with Lynch is that he runs like a man possessed and it is nearly impossible for him to stay healthy for all sixteen games unless he shares the load. Ray Rice is a durable, talented superstar who has averaged over 330 touches in each of the last three seasons and had close to 370 touches in each of the last two years. With a few more carries he'll join this study for the first time. He has not missed a game in three seasons, displaying he has the needed durability to do it. A wildcard to consider this season is rookie Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns. He is without question the go-to back and the team may feed him 25 times a game to take pressure off of the quarterbacks.

    Of the players already on the list multiple times, only Michael Turner and Steven Jackson are still playing and in a position to achieve 320+ carries once again. Both players have a lot of wear and tear on the tires and both have younger, talented running backs that will begin to steal touches away but if they stay healthy and perform at a good level, 20 carries per game is a possibility.

    What did this mean in regard to fantasy points?

  • Twenty-four of the 98 running backs (24.5%) in this study finished with 300+ fantasy points (in non-PPR leagues). Not a terrible number but a little surprising that more of the players in this study did not reach this level. It was actually just sixteen players that managed to reach 300 points in this study including current players Arian Foster, Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson

  • Over half of the players in this study (83 of the 98) managed to finish with 200+ fantasy points (a good fantasy season in non-PPR leagues). When you see this list, you see right away that the true superstars of the position such as Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders, Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith, etc. manage to do this several times in their career.

  • Only 15 of the players failed to reach the 200-point level so 320+ carries will usually mean good fantasy production. The lowest output in the study was 154 fantasy points by Rodney Hampton so even the worst 320+ carry running back will still have significant value.

  • Another somewhat surprising statistic is that 32 of the 98 players (32.7%) failed to average 4.0 yards per carry. Perhaps this is a sign of fatigue and why many NFL teams have embraced the running back by committee approach in this era.

  • Only 31 of the 98 players (31.6%) averaged 4.5 yards per carry or greater in this study. Of course all of those players had good fantasy numbers

  • There definitely appears to be a connection between 320+ carries and rushing touchdowns. 62 of the 98 players (63.2%) managed to rush for at least ten touchdowns on the season and 74 of them had at least 8 rushing touchdowns.

  • The finest season on this list was LaDainian Tomlinson back in 2006. I am sure everyone remembers this season in which he rushed for 1,815 yards, added 508 receiving yards and scored 31 total touchdowns. His 427 fantasy points were a staggering 54 fantasy points ahead of the next closest player (Priest Holmes in 2003)
  • Conclusion

    Looking at the data in this study there is a more than reasonable expectation that a player who carries the ball 320 times will be able to do it again. This appears to be even more likely if these players have durability and are top-tier talents. Current players whom I believe to have a chance at reaching this list for the first time include Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice and rookie Trent Richardson of the Browns. However there are several other candidates although less likely such as young up and comers such as Ryan Matthews, Demarco Murray and Mark Ingram. Of the players on the list, the ones most likely to make a run at 320+ carries in 2012 in my opinion are Maurice Jones-Drew and Arian Foster. Both are cornerstones of their offense attack and will get 20+ carries per game if healthy.

    The 98 Running Backs in Alphabetical Order

    Running Back
    Year
    Age
    Exp
    Gm
    Rush
    Yards
    YPC
    TDs
    Rec
    Yards
    YPR
    TDs
    FtsyPts
    Adrian Peterson
    2008
    23
    2
    16
    363
    1760
    4.85
    10
    21
    125
    5.95
    0
    248.5
    Ahman Green
    2003
    26
    6
    16
    355
    1883
    5.30
    15
    50
    367
    7.34
    5
    345.0
    Arian Foster
    2010
    24
    2
    16
    326
    1614
    4.95
    16
    66
    604
    9.15
    2
    329.8
    Barry Foster
    1992
    24
    3
    16
    390
    1690
    4.33
    11
    36
    344
    9.56
    0
    269.4
    Barry Sanders
    1997
    29
    9
    16
    335
    2053
    6.13
    11
    33
    305
    9.24
    3
    319.8
    Barry Sanders
    1994
    26
    6
    16
    331
    1883
    5.69
    7
    44
    283
    6.43
    1
    264.6
    Barry Sanders
    1998
    30
    10
    16
    343
    1491
    4.35
    4
    37
    289
    7.81
    0
    202.0
    Cedric Benson
    2010
    28
    6
    16
    321
    1111
    3.46
    7
    28
    178
    6.36
    1
    176.9
    Chris Johnson
    2009
    24
    2
    16
    358
    2006
    5.60
    14
    50
    503
    10.06
    2
    346.9
    Chris Warren
    1994
    26
    5
    16
    333
    1545
    4.64
    9
    41
    323
    7.88
    2
    252.8
    Clinton Portis
    2005
    24
    4
    16
    352
    1516
    4.31
    11
    30
    216
    7.20
    0
    244.1
    Clinton Portis
    2007
    26
    6
    16
    325
    1262
    3.88
    11
    47
    389
    8.28
    0
    235.9
    Clinton Portis
    2008
    27
    7
    16
    342
    1487
    4.35
    9
    28
    218
    7.79
    0
    224.5
    Clinton Portis
    2004
    23
    3
    15
    343
    1315
    3.83
    5
    40
    235
    5.88
    2
    201.8
    Corey Dillon
    2004
    30
    8
    15
    345
    1635
    4.74
    12
    15
    103
    6.87
    1
    251.8
    Corey Dillon
    2001
    27
    5
    16
    340
    1315
    3.87
    10
    34
    228
    6.71
    3
    231.3
    Curtis Martin
    2004
    31
    10
    16
    371
    1697
    4.57
    12
    41
    245
    5.98
    2
    278.2
    Curtis Martin
    1995
    22
    1
    16
    368
    1487
    4.04
    14
    30
    261
    8.70
    1
    264.8
    Curtis Martin
    2001
    28
    7
    16
    333
    1513
    4.54
    10
    53
    320
    6.04
    0
    248.2
    Curtis Martin
    1998
    25
    4
    15
    369
    1287
    3.49
    8
    43
    365
    8.49
    1
    219.2
    Curtis Martin
    1999
    26
    5
    16
    367
    1464
    3.99
    5
    45
    259
    5.76
    0
    202.3
    Curtis Martin
    2003
    30
    9
    16
    323
    1308
    4.05
    2
    42
    262
    6.24
    0
    169.0
    Deuce McAllister
    2002
    24
    2
    15
    325
    1388
    4.27
    13
    47
    352
    7.49
    3
    270.0
    Deuce McAllister
    2003
    25
    3
    16
    351
    1641
    4.68
    8
    69
    516
    7.48
    0
    263.7
    Dorsey Levens
    1997
    27
    4
    16
    329
    1435
    4.36
    7
    53
    370
    6.98
    5
    252.5
    Duce Staley
    1999
    24
    3
    16
    325
    1273
    3.92
    4
    41
    294
    7.17
    2
    192.7
    Eddie George
    2000
    27
    5
    16
    403
    1509
    3.74
    14
    50
    453
    9.06
    2
    292.2
    Eddie George
    1999
    26
    4
    16
    320
    1304
    4.08
    9
    47
    458
    9.74
    4
    254.2
    Eddie George
    2002
    29
    7
    16
    343
    1165
    3.40
    12
    36
    255
    7.08
    2
    226.0
    Eddie George
    1996
    23
    1
    16
    335
    1368
    4.08
    8
    23
    182
    7.91
    0
    203.0
    Eddie George
    1998
    25
    3
    16
    348
    1294
    3.72
    5
    37
    310
    8.38
    1
    196.4
    Eddie George
    1997
    24
    2
    16
    357
    1399
    3.92
    6
    7
    44
    6.29
    1
    186.3
    Edgerrin James
    2000
    22
    2
    16
    387
    1709
    4.42
    13
    63
    594
    9.43
    5
    338.3
    Edgerrin James
    1999
    21
    1
    16
    369
    1553
    4.21
    13
    62
    586
    9.45
    4
    315.9
    Edgerrin James
    2005
    27
    7
    15
    360
    1506
    4.18
    13
    44
    337
    7.66
    1
    268.3
    Edgerrin James
    2004
    26
    6
    16
    334
    1548
    4.63
    9
    51
    483
    9.47
    0
    257.1
    Edgerrin James
    2007
    29
    9
    16
    324
    1232
    3.80
    7
    25
    196
    7.84
    0
    184.8
    Edgerrin James
    2006
    28
    8
    16
    337
    1159
    3.44
    6
    38
    217
    5.71
    0
    173.6
    Emmitt Smith
    1995
    26
    6
    16
    377
    1773
    4.70
    25
    62
    375
    6.05
    0
    364.8
    Emmitt Smith
    1992
    23
    3
    16
    373
    1713
    4.59
    18
    59
    335
    5.68
    1
    318.8
    Emmitt Smith
    1994
    25
    5
    15
    368
    1484
    4.03
    21
    50
    341
    6.82
    1
    314.5
    Emmitt Smith
    1996
    27
    7
    15
    327
    1204
    3.68
    12
    47
    249
    5.30
    3
    235.3
    Emmitt Smith
    1999
    30
    10
    15
    329
    1397
    4.25
    11
    27
    119
    4.41
    2
    229.6
    Errict Rhett
    1995
    25
    2
    16
    332
    1207
    3.64
    11
    14
    110
    7.86
    0
    197.7
    Fred Taylor
    2003
    27
    6
    16
    345
    1572
    4.56
    6
    48
    370
    7.71
    1
    236.2
    Jamal Anderson
    1998
    26
    5
    16
    410
    1846
    4.50
    14
    27
    319
    11.81
    2
    312.5
    Jamal Lewis
    2003
    24
    4
    16
    387
    2066
    5.34
    14
    26
    205
    7.88
    0
    311.1
    James Stewart
    2000
    29
    6
    16
    339
    1184
    3.49
    10
    32
    287
    8.97
    1
    213.1
    Jerome Bettis
    1997
    25
    5
    15
    375
    1665
    4.44
    7
    15
    110
    7.33
    2
    231.5
    Jerome Bettis
    1996
    24
    4
    16
    320
    1431
    4.47
    11
    22
    122
    5.55
    0
    221.3
    Jerome Bettis
    2000
    28
    8
    16
    355
    1341
    3.78
    8
    13
    97
    7.46
    0
    191.8
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    2006
    27
    6
    16
    348
    1815
    5.22
    28
    56
    508
    9.07
    3
    427.3
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    2005
    26
    5
    16
    339
    1462
    4.31
    18
    51
    370
    7.25
    2
    317.6
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    2002
    23
    2
    16
    372
    1683
    4.52
    14
    79
    489
    6.19
    1
    307.2
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    2004
    25
    4
    15
    339
    1335
    3.94
    17
    53
    441
    8.32
    1
    287.5
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    2001
    22
    1
    16
    339
    1236
    3.65
    10
    59
    367
    6.22
    0
    220.3
    Larry Johnson
    2005
    26
    3
    16
    336
    1750
    5.21
    20
    33
    343
    10.39
    1
    335.3
    Larry Johnson
    2006
    27
    4
    16
    416
    1789
    4.30
    17
    41
    410
    10.00
    2
    333.9
    Marshall Faulk
    1998
    25
    5
    16
    324
    1319
    4.07
    6
    86
    908
    10.56
    4
    282.7
    Maurice Jones-Drew
    2011
    26
    6
    16
    343
    1606
    4.68
    8
    43
    374
    8.70
    3
    264.0
    Michael Turner
    2008
    26
    5
    16
    377
    1699
    4.51
    17
    6
    41
    6.83
    0
    276.0
    Michael Turner
    2010
    28
    7
    16
    334
    1371
    4.10
    12
    12
    85
    7.08
    0
    217.6
    Natrone Means
    1994
    22
    2
    16
    343
    1350
    3.94
    12
    39
    235
    6.03
    0
    230.5
    Priest Holmes
    2003
    30
    7
    16
    320
    1420
    4.44
    27
    74
    690
    9.32
    0
    373.0
    Priest Holmes
    2001
    28
    5
    16
    327
    1555
    4.76
    8
    62
    614
    9.90
    2
    276.9
    Rashard Mendenhall
    2010
    23
    3
    16
    324
    1274
    3.93
    13
    23
    167
    7.26
    0
    222.1
    Ricky Watters
    1996
    27
    5
    16
    353
    1411
    4.00
    13
    51
    444
    8.71
    0
    263.5
    Ricky Watters
    1995
    26
    4
    16
    337
    1273
    3.78
    11
    62
    434
    7.00
    1
    242.7
    Ricky Watters
    1999
    30
    8
    16
    325
    1210
    3.72
    5
    40
    387
    9.68
    2
    201.7
    Ricky Williams
    2002
    25
    4
    16
    383
    1853
    4.84
    16
    47
    363
    7.72
    1
    323.6
    Ricky Williams
    2003
    26
    5
    16
    392
    1372
    3.50
    9
    50
    351
    7.02
    1
    232.3
    Rodney Hampton
    1994
    25
    5
    14
    327
    1075
    3.29
    6
    14
    103
    7.36
    0
    153.8
    Rudi Johnson
    2005
    26
    4
    16
    337
    1458
    4.33
    12
    23
    90
    3.91
    0
    226.8
    Rudi Johnson
    2004
    25
    3
    16
    361
    1454
    4.03
    12
    15
    84
    5.60
    0
    225.8
    Rudi Johnson
    2006
    27
    5
    16
    341
    1309
    3.84
    12
    23
    124
    5.39
    0
    215.3
    Shaun Alexander
    2005
    28
    6
    16
    370
    1880
    5.08
    27
    15
    78
    5.20
    1
    363.8
    Shaun Alexander
    2004
    27
    5
    16
    353
    1696
    4.80
    16
    23
    170
    7.39
    4
    306.6
    Shaun Alexander
    2003
    26
    4
    16
    326
    1435
    4.40
    14
    42
    295
    7.02
    2
    269.0
    Stephen Davis
    2000
    26
    5
    15
    332
    1318
    3.97
    11
    33
    313
    9.48
    0
    229.1
    Stephen Davis
    2001
    27
    6
    16
    356
    1432
    4.02
    5
    28
    205
    7.32
    0
    193.7
    Steven Jackson
    2006
    23
    3
    16
    346
    1528
    4.42
    13
    90
    806
    8.96
    3
    329.4
    Steven Jackson
    2010
    27
    7
    16
    330
    1241
    3.76
    6
    46
    383
    8.33
    0
    198.4
    Steven Jackson
    2009
    26
    6
    15
    325
    1424
    4.38
    4
    50
    314
    6.28
    0
    197.8
    Terrell Davis
    1998
    26
    4
    16
    392
    2008
    5.12
    21
    25
    217
    8.68
    2
    360.5
    Terrell Davis
    1997
    25
    3
    15
    369
    1750
    4.74
    15
    42
    287
    6.83
    0
    293.7
    Terrell Davis
    1996
    24
    2
    16
    345
    1538
    4.46
    13
    36
    310
    8.61
    2
    274.8
    Terry Allen
    1996
    28
    6
    16
    347
    1353
    3.90
    21
    32
    194
    6.06
    0
    280.7
    Terry Allen
    1995
    27
    5
    16
    338
    1309
    3.87
    10
    31
    232
    7.48
    1
    220.1
    Thomas Jones
    2009
    31
    10
    16
    332
    1402
    4.22
    14
    10
    58
    5.80
    0
    230.0
    Thurman Thomas
    1993
    27
    6
    16
    355
    1315
    3.70
    6
    48
    387
    8.06
    0
    206.2
    Tiki Barber
    2005
    30
    9
    16
    357
    1860
    5.21
    9
    54
    530
    9.81
    2
    305.0
    Tiki Barber
    2004
    29
    8
    16
    322
    1518
    4.71
    13
    52
    578
    11.12
    2
    299.6
    Tiki Barber
    2006
    31
    10
    16
    327
    1662
    5.08
    5
    58
    465
    8.02
    0
    242.7
    Travis Henry
    2002
    24
    2
    16
    325
    1438
    4.42
    13
    43
    309
    7.19
    1
    258.7
    Travis Henry
    2003
    25
    3
    15
    331
    1356
    4.10
    10
    28
    158
    5.64
    1
    216.4
    Willie Parker
    2006
    26
    3
    16
    337
    1494
    4.43
    13
    31
    222
    7.16
    3
    267.6
    Willie Parker
    2007
    27
    4
    15
    321
    1316
    4.10
    2
    23
    164
    7.13
    0
    160.0
    Willis McGahee
    2005
    24
    2
    16
    325
    1247
    3.84
    5
    28
    178
    6.36
    0
    172.5

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